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Lawlor: Surprised By Sunday's Rout? Here's Why You Shouldn't Be

Posted Jan 23, 2018

Sunday night was a magical experience.

I expected the Eagles to win, but certainly not like that. My prediction was 19-13. I was halfway right on the Eagles and doubled up on the Vikings. It was fun to watch a playoff game where you didn't live and die on each snap.

The Eagles were just dominant.

We haven't seen a postseason beat down like that in a long time. You have to go back to 1995 when the Eagles beat the Lions 58-37 in the Wild Card game to find something close to Sunday's win. I thought about that 1995 game for a moment and then it hit me how different those games are.

The 1995 Eagles were an erratic team that had a breakout game in the playoffs. Everything went right that night. Detroit turned the ball over seven times and the Eagles made big play after big play. Ray Rhodes called off the dogs or the Eagles might have scored 70 that night.

What we saw on Sunday is what we've seen all year. The Eagles won five games by 23 or more points. That blowout wasn't fluke plays or blind luck. That was Eagles football. The Eagles were the best team in the league this season. Anyone who had forgotten that got a big reminder in Sunday's win.

Some were surprised the Eagles had so much success against the No. 1 defense in the league. Back in early November, the Eagles hosted the Broncos, who were the No. 1 defense at the time (they finished third). The Eagles piled up 419 yards and scored 51 points on them.

The Eagles played good defenses all year long. Denver, Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago all finished in the top 10. The Eagles only lost to Dallas in the regular-season finale when the starters barely played. Counting Sunday night, the Eagles are 7-1 against teams with top 10 defenses.

Doug Pederson and his staff know how to build a game plan and the players can certainly execute it.

I understand the Eagles being underdogs in the two playoff games. Outsiders saw this team as Carson Wentz and his 52 teammates. Sure, they would give the defense some credit, but analysts couldn't stop focusing on Wentz.

You don't go 13-3 and blow teams out all year long because of one guy or even a few good players. The Eagles are a deep, talented team. When this team plays clean football (no turnovers or major mistakes), they haven't lost.

There is no question that Sunday's performance by Nick Foles caught just about everyone by surprise. He hadn't put up big numbers in recent games and was facing the top defense in the league. I can understand why people on the outside had doubts.

His coaches didn't. His teammates didn't. Nor did Foles. He believed in himself and his team and played like a star quarterback against Minnesota. His throw on the flea-flicker was absolutely incredible. He put that ball where only Torrey Smith could catch it.

Foles showed outstanding pocket presence. He stood tough with rushers around him and got the ball to his receivers. He did take one sack and got hit a couple of other times, but he wasn't afraid to hold the ball and let receivers come open.

The most encouraging thing for me is that Foles showed good chemistry with his receivers. He saw Alshon Jeffery break off his route and go deep. Foles hit him for a long touchdown. He saw Nelson Agholor take his route down the field and hit him with a beautiful touch pass for a good gain.


Foles was certainly the star of the game, but the offensive line also deserves a ton of credit. I was worried about Halapoulivaati Vaitai going up against Everson Griffen. Vaitai won that matchup. The Eagles did give him help on a few plays and Griffen got pressure a few times, but he was largely a non-factor in the game.

Jim Schwartz's defense was outstanding. The Vikings marched right down the field on the opening possession and scored a touchdown. I wasn't too worried. The Vikings script plays and executed it really well. The Eagles were a little sloppy. Once they settled down and saw what the Vikings were doing, they shut them down.

If you were to look at a box score and see just one sack by the Eagles, you might think they didn't have a good pass rush. Nothing could be further from the truth. Case Keenum was pressured all night long and it definitely affected him. There were times when he had good protection and still made errant throws.

The beauty of this is that you expect pressure from stars Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, but it came from everyone. Chris Long stormed in from the left end spot and pressured Keenum into a bad throw. Patrick Robinson picked it off and ran it back for a touchdown. Derek Barnett halted a scoring drive by flying off the right edge and getting a strip-sack, which Long recovered.

The Eagles stuffed the run. They covered well. They tackled well. This was good team defense. They gave up some yards here and there but limited the Vikings to just seven points. The last time we saw anything like that is when the 2002 team limited the Falcons to six points in the Divisional Round.

I can't say enough about the job Doug Pederson did on Sunday. His game plan was creative and aggressive. It is easy to forget that the score was 14-7 with 90 seconds left in the first half. The Eagles scored twice in that span to expand the lead to 24-7. That essentially ended the game.

Pederson didn't pull his foot off the gas pedal in the second half. He called a flea-flicker and that resulted in a long touchdown that just crushed the souls of the Vikings. Any hope they had of a comeback died at that moment. They also had to feel helpless, as Foles and the offense kept making plays.

Minnesota allowed only 51 third down conversions all year. That's insanely good. The Eagles were 10-for-14 on third down. The Vikings were in a state of shock that they couldn't get off the field. They blitzed and Foles burned them. They played back and he burned them. Nothing was working.

Now the Eagles are headed to the Super Bowl. As fun as winning the NFC Championship was, the players and coaches are saying all the right things. The real key is winning the final game and bringing the Lombardi Trophy to Philly. There is still work to be done.

Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Eagles Message Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the editor of IgglesBlitz.com.

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